BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
November 20 2019
Number of Permits per Day: 6
Elevation: 1166 feet
On the Water- Monday July 20th-
On the water late considering how far we need to go today. Up the Horse river to the falls by 6pm. Started raining and NO campsites available. Mudrow-Alruss-Tin can Mike-Horse Lake-Horse River-Basswood. 13 miles by water. (not counting portages)
Tuesday July 21st-
Rain all night, all morning and all day. Went north by petroglyphs, table rock and the the Crocked Lake Narrows across Thursday bay to campsite. Basswood-Crooked Lake-Wednesday Bay-Thursday Bay. 11 miles in the rain.
Wednesday July 22nd-
Up early and calm winds to take advantage of, considering the big water we have to cross. Found beaver dam to lift over and did a portage from hell between Pandos lake and Chippewa Lake. VERY steep and slippery after rain. Many mud holes. Then the mile portage after Wagosh Lake to Gun Lake. Never saw another soul in a canoe or campsite the entire day! Thursday bay-Friday Bay-Pandos Lake-Chippewa Lake-Wagosh lake-Gun Lake. 11 miles by water.
Thursday July 23rd-
Finally had a dry night. got everything dry!!! A few portages today to Fourtown Lake campsite. Easy day by comparison. Gun Lake-Fairy Lake-Boot Lake-Fourtown Lake. 6 miles. Put the long miles at the first of the week for a buffer for contingencies!
Friday July 24th-
Last day. Stormed last night bad. A few portages today with one bad one between Fourtown Lake and Mudrow lake. To entry point by 1pm. Ready for a hot shower! 4 miles
45 miles by water
13 miles by portage (3 trips each)
58 miles total.
Mudro to Canada - 3rd trip to the BWCAW
July 08, 2005
Number of Days:
My group left La Crosse later in the evening than we expected too. My parents trusty Ford Windstar was loaded to the gills with gear. On the roof sat two canoes on our home-made roof rack that the boys rigged up. It was raining and we were tired yet very antsy even though we knew we wouldn't reach our destination, Fenske Lake Campground, until past midnight. The van held four eager campers: Kevin, Aksel, Beth, and Me. We met up with Ryan and Breck in Rochester and headed north. The drive seemed to take forever. Instead of being smart and taking the straight shot to Ely on 169, we continued passed Duluth and Two Harbors, going up Highway 1. It was passed Midnight by the time we reached this long windy stretch of highway. We ended up traveling a turtles pace - 15 mph - because we didn't want to go off the road or hit a any wildlife. We made it to the outskirts of Ely and then noticed that Ryan and Breck's car were not behind us. After waiting on the side of the road for about five minutes a cop car flashed his lights. "Great" I thought. The policeman was extremely nice and offered to go and look for our friends when we saw their headlights in the dark. We explained to the cop that we were headed to Fenske Lake Campground. He first gave us directions and then said "Hell, I'm not doing anything, I'll take you there." He took us all the way to Echo Trail and then said goodnight. I am pretty sure we could have found it by ourselves, but the gesture was extremely nice. We got to Fenske Lake and set up our huge tent in the dark. The set up, surprisingly, went very fast and the tent was up in no time. Breck, had gotten motion sickness in the car on Highway 1 and went straight to bed. I think we all pretty much passed out once we settled in. Fenske Lake
After a long day of driving which turned into a late night camp set up, we slept in a little on Saturday morning. We made a big hearty breakfast that consisted of eggs and more pancakes than I have ever seen. It tasted delicious and filled everyone up with enough energy for the following day. Beth and I took the dishes to the water spicket while the boys took down the tent. It wasn't until afterwards that there was a problem. Breck was having second thoughts. She was relatively knew to the group, being Ryan's girlfriend, and had never gone camping with us before, let alone camped in the Boundary Waters. We assumed Ryan had prepped her well but it seemed as though she wanted to turn around and go home. I felt bad for the girl but selfishness set in. I was ready to go. I had been dreaming about the BWCAW ever since my last trip there two years earlier, and I wasn't going to let anyone stand in my way. Ryan talked Breck into going in a little ways, promising heer that if she still wanted to go home after the first day, they would turn back. This seemed to be a good plan since we were starting later in the day and didn't plan on paddling very far. We left the campsite around noonish and headed into town to pick up our entry permits and some odds and ends that we had forgotten. We then started our drive to the Chain Saw Sister's Saloon, not at all sure what to expect. When we finally reached the Saloon we were all too excited. We paid our parking dues and unloaded quickly. The portage to Mudro was quick and easy. Once we got our canoes in the water it sank it that we were finally leaving civilization behind. Our paddle through the reeds was interesting. We ran into many groups who were on their way out, warning us about the horrible portages that they lay ahead. In a way, I think this was a good thing. After hearing about the hard portages from multiple groups, we had it built up in our heads that they was going to be unbelievably tough. However, when the time came to tackle these portages, they weren't as bad as we had imagined at all. In the late afternoon, after perhaps only a two hours of trekking, we decided to look fo camp. The traffic coming out of Mudro made us nervous about finding a site so we took the first we could grab on Horse Lake (the second site on the left). We set up camp at this spacious site and made some dinner. Breck seemed to be doing alright but it had been an easy day, tomorrow would be more of a test. Mudro Lake, Sandpit Lake, Tin Can Mike Lake, Horse Lake
We woke up, ate breakfast, and began to pack up camp. We decided we would try to be a little leasurely on our trip since we had given ourselves 6 days. We paddled toward the Horswe River inlet and stopped at a campsite just before to confer over the map. So far our maps had been a big disappointment. In the past our group had always used McKenzie and never had a problem, but this year we went with the Fisher series and were having a tough time of it. We set off for the Horse River not sure exactly what to expect. The River was quiet and so picturesque. We ran into the first portage quickly. The boys and Beth wanted to shoot the rapids but I was not so sure. In both my previous trips I had issues with myself and my stuff ending up all wet, making me unhappy and miserbale. I wanted to play it safe so I told Kevin that I would take our stuff on the portage and he could shoot the rapids. Breck and Beth decided to portage as well and let the boys take on the rapids. We could judge that they were pretty weak rapids so we didn't antipicate the 30 minutes it took the boys to get down them. Apparently the water was too shallow and the ended up walking the canoes down. They appeared before us with cuts and scrapes all over their legs from slipping on the rocks. When we finally got going again it was only a short paddle to the next portage. I was less than thrilled when Beth said she wanted to do the rapids. I grumbled to myself but decided to try to be a good sport and try as well. I didn't make it too far before I fell. I decided that this was not for me and told Kevin I was going to do the portage. I know my own limits and did not want to ruin my time with an injury. Kevin decided he would turn around with me. I didn't ask him to, but I was really happy that he did. This is where everything went sour. Kevin and I made it through the portage quickly and sat down to wait for Aksel and Beth, and Ryan and Breck. Aksel and Beth made it though the rapids rather quickly but told us they had to walk their canoe down and that Ryan and Breck were having a tough time. I suggested perhaps that someone should go back and help them but then we started to hear them argue. Their voices were pretty loud so we assumed that they would appear in no time. We got our canoes packed up and floated in the water for a while. The four of us discussed the map for a while until we heard the fight of the century occur from beyond the bend. We didn't really know what to do. I was starting to rethink our couples trip. I was a little annoiyed that Ryan had not better prepared Breck and that he did not listen to her when she was having second thoughts. The fighting continued, ruining the serene atmosphere just a bit. There was a lot of yelling and a couple of screams and then a few minutes later we saw Ryan appear by himself in a canoe. This was not good. His exact words were "There is a little problem and I need help taking care of a situation." I seriously thought we were going to have to burry a body but all he wanted was for Kevin to go and get her. It was akward for a while but eventually they made up. Needless to say, the last portage on Horse River we all took. Talk of shooting rapids was no more. We made it to Basswood pretty quickly as the strong current urged us on. Trying to decipher the map was difficult. We could not find the portage or the waterfall, but we could hear it. We saw the first campsite but had trouble locating the rest meanwhile we were being carried up the water. We saw the opening of what appeared to be a portage ahead of us but the map was confusing. According the the map it was a walk-in campsite, not a portage. As we were arguing about what to do, Beth piped up and said "uh guys." Well, we found the waterfall pretty quick and had to hall ass to get out of the current and not die. We decided to pull up to this so-called walk-in site and look at the map closer. We discovered that we were actually on the portage trail and started hauling our stuff. We spent some time exploring, enjoying the view of Lower Basswood Falls, and taking plenty of pictures. Once we had seen enough, we decided to look for a spot to spend the night. It was pretty late and we were having a lot of trouble reading the map and locating the campsites. Many of the sites that were closer to the falls were already taken so I began to get a bit nervous. We asked a group at a site to help us read the map and they seemed just as confused as we were. We borrowed their McKenzie for a minute, looked it over, and continued up stream a little ways. We finally settled on a site further up the Basswood River. This was a fairly nice site. It was located higher up and involved some climbing to get to it, but it was spacious and offered its own little swimming hole which we readily took advantage of. Horse Lake, Basswood Lake
The current was pretty strong thanks to Lower Basswood Falls, making the paddle less rigorous. No one realized how far we had gone until it appeared we reached Crooked Lake. I was upset that we missed the pictographs because no one (including myself) was paying attention. Ryan and Kevin suggested going back but paddeling against the current didn't seem like fun so we continued on. We were aiming to make it to Thursday Bay but did not anticipate the paddle ahead. Crooked Lake was massive and very choppy. We could not hug the shore or it would have made the paddle that much longer so we braved the harsh water. The heat seemed so unbearable. The past two morning when we awoke it already felt like it was 60 degrees. Now, at mid-day, we were wasting away in the brutal sun. We welcomed the stop at Table Rock and ate lunch and swam. We inspected the campsite and concluded it would not be a great place to stay - virtually no shade. After paddeling some more we were heartbroken to see that our planned campsite was gone. We really hadn't seen anyone all since leaving Lower Basswood Falls so we did not plan an alternate site. We slipped into a little bay just before Thursday Bay. We were disappointed when we pulled up to the first campsite. The tent pads were not the greatest, there were roots everywhere, and the site was on a slope. There was only one other campsite down that inlet and we all prayed it would be better. To our delight, the site was awesome. It was very spacious and allowed room for all of our tent pads. It offered us a small beach and a lot of privacy which was nice. The site was very windy which did have a positive side as the wind kept all the bugs away. We set up camp, ate dinner, and swam. As we all drifted asleep we could hear thunder in the distance. I woke up in the middle of the night to nosies from outside our tent. I woke Kevin up and we looked outside our tent and could see the outline of a moose. It was so big and making lots of noise. It stumbled around as if drunk and then went off. Basswood Lake Crooked Lake
The morning came fast. We all took a quick swim and then made breakfast. I was eating my delicious pita when I made the mistake of sitting it down on my mess kit right in front of me. Out of nowhere a Grey Jay dive-bombed me, grabbed my pita and flew off. He ran right into Ryan's leg, dropped the pita and flew into a tree. These birds were everywhere and they were NOT shy. We also saw some loons, one with a baby on its back. Across the bay we spotted some deer, we watched them for a while before begining to pack up camp. We headed out, planning to camp at the bottom of Friday Bay and have a nice short day, but that is not exactly what we got. We made our way across the top of Thursday Bay. Our group was exhausted. Our arms were sore from a day of straight paddeling and the sun was unforgiving. We stopped at a rocky campsite for lunch and swam for a while. We saw our first group of the day paddeling the opposite direction. We continued on but did not make it very far before we stopped again to take a dip. We pulled up to an expansive island campsite that showed signs of bears. We did not stay long as the site offered no shade. Our canoes steered into Friday bay with ease. We headed for the western shore to look at the first couple of sites. They seemed nice but we decided to push on. We stopped at the last site on Friday Bay and ate some dinner. The site was not big enough to accomodate our group comfortably. We decided we would test our luck and continue on. We had only seen one other group and they were heading the opposite direction from us. We figured that there were three campsites before the 300 rod and one of them was bound to be unoccupied. Our trek to Papoose was a little muddy and the lake was one nasty bog. It was buggy and smelled like mud. Those damn industrious beavers had dried up an entire lake and created mudhole. Chippewa Lake did not seem any better. The campsite was unoccupied but the lake was horribly muddy and really buggy. The next lake seemed better but again, the campsite was not up to par. Wagosh was our only hope. Wagosh was a beautiful Lake. The water looked so inviting but we were all too tired to go for a swim. Our hearts sunk when we peared across the lake and saw the last campsite before the 300 rod portage was taken. Our group was at an impass: go back and take one of the less favorable sites or power through the 300 rod and pray there was a site ready for us on Gun Lake. We decided to go big or go home. The portage was relatively easy, flat but never ending. By the time our group made it to the other side we were all about in pieces. We took the first site available to us, a site on the Southwest corner of Gun. It wasn't long before we litterally all passed out. Crooked Lake, Chippewa Lake, Wagosh Lake, Gun Lake
We woke up later in the morning, it felt great to sleep in. We all took a lengthy swim in the lagoon before making breakfast. I wanted to take it easy that day, however, the group voted on packing out because Breck was not having a wonderful time. After the day we had had, traveling from Gun Lake to Mudro seemed to fly by. This part of the trip was very busy with the portages being very backed up. I was sad that the group was gunning to get out of the BWCA in such a hurry but all good things must come to an end. We stopped at Chain Saw Sisters for some beers after our haul, nothing has ever tasted quite so good. We all walked around Ely for a few hours before deciding to drive to Hayward, WI to spend the rest of our trip. Kevin and I analyzed the trip in the car ride. We came up with a few things which I wanted to make sure I marked. This trip had been the best we had gone on as far as endurance and really pushing ourselves. We covered 55 miles in 4.5 days which I think is pretty good. This route had been a lot of fun except we were not very impressed with the second half. The first part of the trip had been so scenic but we felt that after leaving Friday Bay, the lakes were not that great except for a few. We sort of wished we would have either traveled into the Quetico around by Wednesday Bay and come back down or that we had turned at lower Basswood Falls toward Wheelbarrown falls and gone down through Basswood Lake...perhaps another time. Kevin and I deduced that the next time that we decide to go on a group trip we need to have some pre-BWCA meetings to prepare. If I ever go with a group again I would want the entire group to gain an overview of the trip, study the map, and discuss what each person individually was hoping to gain from the experience. Also, I would want to ensure that everyone was prepared and mentally and physically. I would want to create a list of supplies and specific responsibilities of each person. Group dynamics can make or break a trip, we were fortunate that they didn't completely ruin this one. I don't know if I would ever go with 6 people again. It was fun to have a big group, however, it was tricky as well. It was harder to find sites with enough tent pads, harder to keep everyone on the same page, harder to get going because everyone was on a different time frame. I also think our group was way to noisey which irritated me because I could not enjoy the landscapes and we did not see as much wildlife as we could have. I prefer a group of four. Next time, however, Kevin and I are thinking maybe we will go it alone with just the two of us. All in all, this was an unforgettable trip. Gun Lake, Fairy Lake, Boot Lake, Fourtown Lake, Mudro Lake